US Senate candidate Al Gross and his wife, Monica (at left), at a nighttime whistlestop rally in Sitka on October 29, 2020. Gross has edged closer to incumbent Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan since damaging tapes were disclosed in September. Sullivan’s campaign has since tried to portray Gross as a “California liberal,” which Gross denies. “I’m an Alaskan like the rest of you here,” he told the Sitka crowd. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

US Senate candidate Al Gross made a whistlestop in Sitka Thursday evening (10-29-20), during a final statewide swing to convince voters to put him in the seat currently held by Republican Dan Sullivan.

Gross met with about one-hundred Sitkans under the Crescent Harbor net shed, where everyone wore masks as much for protection against the chilly breezes as the coronavirus. Gross is a political independent who would likely caucus with Senate Democrats if elected, although he emphasized his willingness to work with Republicans to solve some of the nation’s most pressing problems like the coronavirus pandemic and the associated economic depression. 

Gross is an orthopedic surgeon and commercial fisherman from Juneau. He pushed back against Sullivan’s campaign ads that portray him as a “California liberal.” Here is an excerpt of his remarks.

You need a senator who’s outspoken for the values you care about. And I think I share those values with you because I’m from here. He’s trying to paint me as some left-wing liberal, but I’m not: I grew up on fishing boats, I’ve got guns, and I drive boats — I’m just an Alaskan like all of you here. I’m very climate change-aware, I’m eager to get involved with as many renewable energy projects in Alaska as we can possibly do, and to join back up with the Paris Climate Accords (applause). And I want to be the doctor that gets the public option across the finish line (more applause, cheering). It is so long overdue that people have the option to buy into the public system. So I’m going to work really hard on that, I’m going to work in bipartisan fashion, because I really do believe in bipartisanship. It’s what I grew up with, it’s why I’m still an independent, and I believe I’m here representing everyone in Sitka — not just the Democrats, not just the independents, and I want to forge relationships on both sides of the aisle to bring the country back together.

In addition to his support for the public option in health care, Gross touched other Democratic campaign planks. He said that as an Alaskan he’s opposed to government intrusion in our lives — a roundabout way of saying he’s pro-choice on the abortion issue — and he supported a national strategy to end the pandemic. “Fifty different plans at fifty different times isn’t working,” he said. Gross got the biggest cheer from the Sitka audience when he mentioned finding federal funds to save the Marine Highway System.

The race for US Senate has tightened up considerably in the past few weeks — particularly after the revelation of secretly-recorded tapes of Canadian mining executives characterizing Sen. Sullivan as a pushover for the controversial Pebble Mine. But Sullivan’s base remains strong in the state, after he unseated Democrat Sen. Mark Begich six years ago. The nonpartisan political analysts at — averaging all polling in the state — give a five point edge to Sullivan in the election, 50-45.

The general election is Tuesday, November 3. Polls in Alaska will be open 8 A.M. to 8 P.M.